Pancakes are one of the simplest foods to make and require very few ingredients. Whether you want to create a beautiful breakfast to get your morning off to a good start or get the kids involved in an after-tea treat, pancakes are a great choice.
But cracking the recipe and technique can sometimes be challenging. Expert chef Peter Sidwell talks us through his tips and tricks to make the perfect pancakes every time.
- Why do we make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?
- When is pancake day?
- How to make pancakes
- How to make American-style pancakes
- How to make vegan pancakes
- Top tips for the perfect pancake every time
- The biggest pancake mistakes (and how to avoid them)
- How to use up leftover batter
- Unusual pancake toppings and recipes to try out
- How to get children involved in baking
- What are the best tools for making pancakes?
Why do we make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?
Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday – also known as Pancake Day – was the last chance for Christians to use up butter, eggs, and fat before Lent fasting began on Ash Wednesday. And pancakes were the perfect way to use up these ingredients!
Today, Pancake Day is widely celebrated all over the world as people come together to make and share this delicious dish.
When is Pancake Day?
Pancake Day falls on the day before the start of Lent, so the date varies every year. However, it will always be in February or March. This year, Shrove Tuesday is on the 21st of February, 2023.
How to make pancakes
We’ve put together a simple pancake recipe to get you started. This simple recipe works as a foundation; you can add all manner of toppings to spruce up your pancakes, but we’ll get into that later.
Tools you’ll need:
- Mixing bowl
- Balloon whisk
- Non-stick frying pan
- Silicone turner
- 75 g plain flour
- Two medium eggs
- 200 ml milk
- Oil for frying
- A pinch of salt
- Add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre.
- Crack the eggs into the well, along with half of the milk.
- Mix gently with a balloon whisk until all the flour is incorporated and then beat until smooth.
- Add the remaining milk and whisk again.
- Once your mixture has reached a slightly thicker consistency than single cream, stop whisking. If it’s too thick, you can always add more milk to loosen the batter.
- Rest the batter for around 30 minutes in the fridge for lighter pancakes, or you can cook straight away if you’re in a rush.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan with a little oil in the centre and wait a few minutes for it to get to a medium temperature.
- Add some batter to your pan with a ladle and quickly tilt it in circles to distribute the batter — this is the key to a thin, even layer!
- Leave your pancake to cook for around two minutes.
- Ease a silicone turner gently under the pancake before flipping it, making sure it’s laid flat to prevent folds. Or, you could even flip it freehand if you’re feeling brave!
- Cook for a further two minutes or until both sides are golden.
- Use the rest of the batter to make a further three pancakes.
- Serve with toppings of your choice!
How to make American-style pancakes
American pancakes are notoriously thick and fluffy, thanks to the addition of baking powder and self-raising flour, which allows them to rise. The batter also usually contains sugar for a sweeter treat!
Peter says, “When making American pancakes, the trick is to create a batter thick enough to hold but loose enough to spread into a circular shape.
And remember — let the pancake batter rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. This will give the flour time to absorb the liquid, resulting in deliciously light American pancakes.”
Opt for a bacon and maple syrup topping in true American style!
How to make vegan pancakes
Thankfully, being plant-based in today's world doesn't mean you'll be missing out on tasty treats. The main ingredient in pancakes is flour, so you'll only need to alter the recipe slightly.
But how do you replace the eggs and milk?
Peter explains, "Plant-based replacements are really easy to find these days, so you can still make delicious pancakes following a vegan diet! Simply use an egg substitute available at most supermarkets, like the brand 'Crackd'. You'll also find soya or oat milk at most shops, and they make great replacements for cow's milk."
Surprisingly, apple sauce is also an excellent substitute for eggs — it works well at binding the ingredients together. As a general rule, use a quarter cup of apple sauce for one egg. Apple sauce can be quite sweet, so you may need to cut back on the sugar slightly in your pancakes.
Top tips for the perfect pancake every time
1. Add oil instead of butter to your pan
"Butter tends to burn in the frying pan if you're not careful, so I find it's best to use oil when cooking pancakes," explains Peter. "I prefer using vegetable oil, as it doesn't affect the flavour of your pancakes like extra virgin olive oil would."
Although butter is tasty, it cooks quickly in a hot frying pan, so you may find burnt bits stuck to your pan — or even worse — your pancake. Oil has a higher smoke point, allowing your batter to turn golden brown without burning.
If you want the delicious flavour of butter without the risk of burning it, why not try whisking in a little melted butter to your batter?
2. Know when your pancakes are done
Although recipes usually provide a rough guide for how long to cook pancakes for, this will depend on various factors like the temperature of your pan and the size of your pancake.
So how will you know when your pancakes are ready? Peter explains, “When the bubbles start to appear on the uncooked side, then that’s the right time to flip your pancake. Both sides need to be golden brown.”
3. Use a silicone spatula
Silicone spatulas make flipping pancakes a breeze!
Peter says, "To flip a pancake without tearing or breaking it, use a silicone turner instead of a metal one. Silicone is very flexible, making it easier to work around the sides of your pancake and smoothly lift it from the pan."
Metal turners can also scratch the non-stick coating on your pans, so save them for your cast-iron or stainless steel cookware instead.
4. Cook on medium heat
The right cooking temperature can make a big difference to your pancake.
Peter says, “It’s better to have your hob on medium heat as a high temperature could make it look like your pancakes are cooked, but they’re underdone inside. Starting on a lower temperature and turning it up if needed is less risky than putting the hob on full straight away.”
5. Use a non-stick pan
Peter advises using a non-stick pan for the perfect pancake, “A non-stick pan is essential for making pancakes, especially thin crêpes, which may be delicate. Remember to grease your pan well with oil before cooking each pancake to ensure they don’t stick!”
Read our guide on how to choose the perfect induction pan for your kitchen to learn more.
6. Whisk your dry ingredients
Nobody wants to dig into their pancakes to find a clump of flour. If you've managed to create lumps in your mix, it can take a lot of arm work to get them out and sometimes it just isn't possible.
Pesky lumps in your pancake batter can be avoided by mixing your dry ingredients to a fine consistency with a balloon whisk before adding your milk and eggs. Achieving a silky smooth batter will be easier and quicker!
You could also sieve your ingredients to be extra safe, but if you can’t wait, thoroughly whisking your dry ingredients should do the trick.
The biggest pancake mistakes (and how to avoid them)
1. Letting your pan go cold
A common mistake people make when cooking pancakes: not letting the pan get hot enough.
Peter explains, “People often waste their first pancake because the pan isn’t up to temperature. Your batter will cook slowly if it’s poured into a cool pan, resulting in a tough, flat pancake. It could also break if you try to flip it before it’s properly cooked on the underside.”
“Leaving your pan to heat up for two to three minutes should get it to the right temperature. If you’re still unsure, try flicking a bit of water into it; if it sizzles and boils away, you’re ready to cook!”
We know you can’t wait to eat your delicious pancake, but having a little patience can really make a difference.
2. Skipping the resting
Although it’s tempting to get straight into pancake making, skipping this step may not produce the best results.
Resting your batter is the secret to deliciously light pancakes, as it allows the flour to absorb more liquid, releasing starches that give beautiful height to your pancakes. This is very important for American style!
You won’t need to wait hours: 30 minutes will do! Why not make a pot of tea or prepare your toppings while waiting?
3. Over-oiling your pan
Peter says, "Make sure your pan is lightly oiled and not heavily coated, as you could be left with a greasy mess. Of course, oil is needed to prevent your pancake from sticking, but you only need a little!"
If you've accidentally added too much, wait for your pan to cool and wipe with kitchen roll to remove the excess.
How to use up leftover batter
If your eyes have been bigger than your belly and you’ve made too much pancake mix, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to use up the leftover batter.
Using your leftovers is not only better for the environment by cutting down food waste, but it will also save you money. Getting creative with your recipes can also be fun!
Fermented bread, like sourdough, has become increasingly popular over the years. Peter says spare pancake mix can be added when baking it: “If you’ve got some leftover American-style pancake mix, add a little dried yeast and leave in the fridge for a couple of days. Use it when you’re next making fermented bread for a delicious, deeper-flavour.”
Baking mini muffins is a fun way to use leftover pancake mix. Cake ingredients are not far from pancake ingredients, usually needing flour, egg, and milk. Therefore, creating muffins from the leftovers is super easy!
Your cake mix will probably need to be thicker than your pancake batter, so add a bit of extra flour accordingly. You’ll also need to add sugar to sweeten it and whatever filling you fancy, like chocolate chips, dried fruit, or fresh blueberries!
Pour your mix into muffin cases and cook at 180°C in the oven for around ten minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they’ve risen and a knife comes out of your cake clean.
To spruce up your muffins, read our guide on how to decorate a cake.
Technically, pancake and Yorkshire pudding batter are the same — you just serve them with different meals!
To make Yorkshire puddings with leftover pancake mix, simply oil your pudding pans or a muffin tray and pop it in the oven, heated to around 200°C, for five minutes. Pour your batter in the holes and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes for deliciously puffed-up Yorkshires!
Serve with lashings of homemade gravy on your Sunday dinner for an indulgent treat.
Save it for another day
You could always save your pancakes for another day.
Peter says, “Pancake batter can be kept for two to four days in the fridge, depending on the expiry date of your ingredients. Although, you’ll be better off cooking and freezing your pancakes, as this will preserve their freshness.”
To freeze pancakes, wait until they have cooled before putting them in a reusable freezer bag and into the freezer for up to two months. When you’re ready to eat, pop them in the oven for 10 minutes and serve with your favourite toppings.
Freezing will also speed up the pancake-making process — the perfect breakfast for early starts!
Unusual pancake toppings and recipes to try out
Rainbow crepe cake
Do you want to try something a bit different than your usual lemon and sugar, or are you looking for something to impress your guests at dinnertime? A rainbow crepe cake will do just that!
For the crêpes:
- Four eggs
- 400 g self-raising flour
- 500 ml milk
- Natural food colourings
- Vegetable oil
For the buttercream:
- 200 g softened butter
- 400 g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Add all your dry crepe ingredients to a large mixing bowl and whisk together.
- Pour your wet crepe ingredients into the bowl and mix with a balloon whisk until smooth.
- Divide the mixture into separate bowls and add the food colouring of your choice to each one.
- Preheat your frying pan to medium heat with a small amount of oil.
- Once your pan has heated up, ladle some pancake mix into it. (There should just be enough to cover the base of the pan).
- Move the pan around to spread the batter around it evenly.
- Cook for around two minutes on one side before using a silicone spatula to turn it over.
- Cook for a further two minutes.
- Remove your pancake from the pan and repeat the above steps until you’ve cooked all your batter.
- Set aside to cool.
- Make the buttercream by beating the butter in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon or machine whisk until it has lightened in colour.
- Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract to the bowl, gently folding it in.
- Once the icing sugar is incorporated, beat it until it’s light and fluffy.
- Spread a little buttercream in between each pancake, making a thin layer.
- Stack the butter-creamed crêpes on top of each other before icing the sides and the top to completely cover the cake.
- Add some colourful sprinkles to decorate!
- Pop in the fridge for one hour before serving.
Cheese and Marmite
Peter says, “Cheese and Marmite complement each other perfectly on a pancake for a savoury treat.”
Use our basic pancake recipe and add a tablespoon or two of Marmite to the batter.
While your pancake batter is resting in the fridge, melt 50 g of butter in a saucepan before adding 100 g of self-raising flour. Stir gently with a balloon whisk until all the flour has dissolved and cook for one minute.
Add 400 ml of milk and continue to stir on low heat. When the sauce begins to thicken, add 60 ml of sour cream before adding 100 g of strong, grated cheese and mix until it’s melted. Then, all that’s left to do is cook your pancakes and serve them with cheese sauce!
Golden syrup and lemon juice
Do you want to keep it simple but try a new topping?
Peter suggests, “If you want something a bit different to your classic lemon and sugar, try mixing golden syrup and lemon juice for a quick yet tasty topping. Simply drizzle over your pancakes!”
Almond butter and sliced banana
“For a healthy topping option, you could try almond butter and sliced banana. Almonds are full of protein, helping you to start your day off right,” explains Peter.
Not only are almonds and bananas nutritious, but they also make the perfect combination of nutty and sweet!
Caramelised chutney and cheese
Pancakes don’t have to be sweet. If you’re more into savoury dishes, a chutney and cheese filling may be to your taste.
Peter says, “Caramelised chutney and cheese is great on pancakes. I like to add chutney and grated cheddar to my crepe and fold it to serve. You can even add green veggies if you like!”
How to get children involved in baking
Cooking with your kids is a great way to spend quality time with them. It can also help children develop a healthy relationship with food.
Peter explains why getting kids involved in cooking from a young age is essential: "Cooking in the kitchen is an important confidence booster for children as they can achieve new tasks that taste good!"
"I believe the key for children to eat well is to understand more about ingredients, so the fear of not liking it is reduced. The more familiar it is, the less scary."
However, kitchen safety is especially important for children who may not understand hazards yet. But how can parents keep them safe?
Peter explains, "A kitchen can be dangerous and there're a fair few hazards to look out for when cooking with children. It may sound obvious, but younger kids must be supervised at all times by an adult to prevent any accidents from happening. You should also remember to turn the handles of any hot pans inwards, so they're not sticking out. This will minimise the risk of them being tipped or knocked off."
"The kitchen can be hazardous, but you shouldn't underestimate your kid's abilities — they can do more than you think! Although it may sound risky, teaching knife skills is a vital lesson, helping children to know how to use one safely as they grow older. You'll need to buy a comfortable-sized knife for their little hands to use and keep an eye on them at all times."
Pancakes are an excellent way for kids to get involved in cooking, as they are simple and relatively easy to make.
Peter says, "Kids love cracking eggs, weighing flour, and whisking! It's a fun recipe for everyone to get involved in and the result will be delicious. Giving them a few decoration options like sprinkles or chocolate spread will also keep them engaged."
What are the best tools for making pancakes?
Best for frying pancakes: MasterClass Cast Aluminium Crepe Pan for Induction Hob
Built for making pancakes, the cooking experts at MasterClass have created a pan that makes achieving the perfect pancake easy.
Do you find it difficult to make pancakes that don’t tear when you’re turning them over? This pan has two layers of non-stick coating to make flipping a breeze.
The aluminium design is also an excellent heat conductor that gets hot quickly, creating delicious golden crêpes in no time.
Best for multi-purpose use: KitchenCraft Non-Stick Induction Frying Pan Set
A set of excellent-quality pans is a must in any kitchen. Whether you’re moving into a new home or want to upgrade your tools, these two induction-friendly frying pans come in one great value package.
This set comes in two handy sizes: perfect for tackling various cooking tasks, including pancakes!
Best for flipping pancakes: Colourworks Classics Cream Long Handled Silicone Slotted Food Turner
A silicone food turner is a kitchen staple, whatever you’re using it for. The flexible design slides effortlessly under pancakes, flipping them with ease. The easy-to-hold handle and raised edge also make serving efficient and quick.
Best for squeezing lemons: MasterClass Stainless Steel Citrus Fruit Squeezer
Squeezing a lemon with your hands can get messy and a lot of juice is often wasted. Once you try a fruit squeezer, you’ll never go back.
This squeezer is designed with a perfectly shaped reamer, allowing you to extract the maximum amount of liquid. This way, you can enjoy more juice and less waste!
The top section is pieced with holes, allowing fresh juice to drip into the container below, keeping the pulp behind. The container has a handle and spout, so pouring lemon juice straight onto your pancakes is super easy.
You're now ready to make the perfect pancake
Creating and flipping pancakes doesn't have to be complicated. Once you've made and chilled your batter and your frying pan is nice and hot, light and fluffy pancakes can be yours within ten minutes.
Whether you're getting the kids involved in the kitchen or wanting to impress the family at breakfast, having the correct tools can make cooking pancakes a lot easier.